Obama’s vision of the arc of history is more cramped and partisan. In his view, history is a story of progress toward an ever larger government at home and an ever more assertive America abroad. But history doesn’t always move that way. In the century before World War I, Britain led the world by reducing taxes and freeing up enterprise and trade. Government restrictions were discarded as vestiges of medieval tyranny.
That’s something like American voters’ response to Obamacare and other regulation-heavy Obama policies. Obama hoped Obamacare would lead to a government-run single-payer system and never communicated a sense of how much government would be too much. American voters responded that Obamacare was more than enough. It’s another example of history’s going back and forth on the size of government.
On foreign policy, Obama clearly thinks America has too often been on the wrong side of history, an oppressor more often than a liberator. Better to cede power to international organizations and to hold out to unfriendly powers an “open hand” rather than a “clenched fist.”
So far, that seems to have produced not affection but contempt. Vladimir Putin expands Russian power into Ukraine and Syria. China advances to dominate international sea lanes. The mullahs of Iran ramp up support of terrorism and do little to conceal their pursuit of nuclear weapons.